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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation Anxiety VS. Looking For Something To Do

Separation anxiety (S.A.) symptoms often resemble boredom behaviors, including chewing, dissecting, digging (if dogs are left outside), “accidents” in the house, and excessive vocalization. A close look at your lifestyle will determine if yours is a case of dog anxiety or dog boredom.

Some Dogs Struggle With Modern Lifestyles

According to Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, dogs evolved because humans have inadvertently or intentionally selected for “low flight distance” for millennia – those dogs that were most comfortable in close proximity to humans and their settlements were most likely to receive food from humans. Closeness to humans conferred a reproductive advantage for dogs through increased access to resources.

Traditionally, this arrangement worked well for dogs. Then and in many rural areas today, leashes or fences were few or non-existent. Dogs could roam off-leash, greeting other dogs, chasing squirrels, rabbits, deer, woodchucks, cats, and the occasional skunk or porcupine. Crashing happily through woods, fields, and streams, dogs exercised their bodies and all their senses. Many worked closely with their owners all day hunting, herding, carting, or guarding. These dogs would then return home exhausted, crash on the floor to happily receive belly rubs, and sleep until morning. Very few dogs living this type of lifestyle suffer from separation anxiety.

Automobile traffic makes this type of lifestyle dangerous for dogs now, and busy modern lifestyles and long working days make similar stimulation impractical and out of reach for most dog owners. This is a conflict of interests – what is in the best interest of the dog (plentiful mental and physical stimulation) conflicts with the owner’s desire to relax after a long day.

Ask Not What Your Dog Can Do For You, But What You Are Doing For Your Dog

How much exercise does your dog get? How much daily training? How often do you play with her? How long are you separated each day? How often does she socialize with other dogs appropriately?

Many dogs have deficits in socialization (with humans and dogs), mental stimulation (training, toys, play), and/or physical stimulation (running, swimming, walking, hiking, playing). Make sure to provide your dog with an opportunity to engage in all three daily. If dogs are not provided with this stimulation, boredom digging, chewing, barking, will likely ensue. Fulfilling basic needs remedies behavior problems related to boredom.

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